We decided to catch the city bus to OSJ which costs $0.25 per person. That's 50 cents for both of us as opposed to $12.00 (quite a savings). On the way to town, we are the only tourists on the bus. Chuck gets an attack of the hungers, so we need to find a cafe as soon as we get to the terminal; to make matters worse it is now 92 degrees. The Hard Rock Cafe was the first place we found, and in we went.
We went to the area where " La Negra" was supposed to appear at 1:00pm, and she wasn't there. They were casually setting up the stage so we boarded one of the free trolleys which take you around the OSJ area. One is the "Central" , and has a fairly short run before it gets back to where it came from. The other is labeled "Norte" and goes as far as the parking lot of El Morro and back to town. It also touches upon more museums and galleries on the outer periphery of OSJ. As we boarded the Central trolley, I circled the areas I wanted to revisit again.
Below are some of the highlights of the foot tour:
Fashion Garments, Inc.
310 Fortaleza Street
OSJ - 787-723-3005
Bob Vaswani is an importer/wholesaler of designer clothing from Jakarta and Thailand. One of a kind pieces, very avant garde and elegant. Spoke with him, and did purchase an outfit which spoke to me as soon as I walked in. He and his wife travel to Southeast Asia quite a bit, and he told us to hurry up and go to Thailand. He couldn't stop singing its praises. He talked about the difficulties of importing from Jakarta now because of the problems Americans were having there after 9/11. LADIES!, if you are in Old San Juan, go to this shop. No joke. A lot of shopkeepers here hail from India.
Haitian Gallery Arts & Crafts
206 Fortaleza Street
This gallery is loaded with incredible talent. The wood sculpture is by far the very best on the island; we saw two toned wood statues that were heart stopping, and small to large wooden chests with relief carving on their lids such as calla lilies. They had low tables with similar motif which should be covered with glass. Also masks, paintings, large and small of familiar Haitian scenes of natives, farms, and fruits. Expect high prices but the pieces are well worth it. Two locations on Fortaleza street; the other is at # 367.
This one is one a corner and affords the largest space.
We then heard some fairly loud reggae music down the street, and I never did get the name of the place, but you can't miss it. The walls are filled with Bob Marley posters. The guy incharge could be his son. He was playing a CD for a couple that were buying; he said he's trying to initiate people into other reggae sounds that include spanish and english compositions. He was very friendly, and we were rocking to the music. Prices comparable to mainland, at about $18 for international CD's. He's got a wonderful assortment of latin reggae.
We stopped in a local restaurant to grab a bite; the whole place was filled with sleds, santa clauses, red velvet ribbons. We sat at the counter and ordered guava filled pastries and limeades. It gave us the energy to continue walking.
We then happened on the Convento Hotel and this needs a separate journal. Nothing short of amazing.
There is quite a bit of non-native art in OSJ; i.e. 3 Peruvian art galleries on the same street; one of them is listed below:
237 San Francisco Street
OSJ 787-725-5754, next to La Bombonera Restaurant
There are a high number of souvenir shops and you identify them by the T-shirts or saris which are hung on the doors; an inordinate amount of Indonesian crafts can also be found in the old town's specialty gift shops.
208 Cristo Street
Boveda is right next door to Atmospheres and typifies the upscale, hip boutique with exclusive lines of designer, one of a kind clothing pieces, aromatic soaps, jewelry (as soon as you walk in, you are greeted by a large jeweler's case). There are also paper luminaries, pillows, etc.. they have an email address at hotmail but no web presence.
Right about this time, we decided to call it an evening, and get some dinner. With our usual luck, we enjoyed the King and I .